Following his sell-out show at The Yellow Book Steampunk Pub in York Place in March, we were lucky enough to catch up with Brightonian megastar and the world’s foremost (or possibly secondmost) Chap-hop artiste PROFESSOR ELEMENTAL. Unfortunately both Bjournal’s elite journalistic team and The Great Man himself were completely drunk, and the original interview was – perhaps fortunately – lost to posterity. After luring The Professor away from his heavily tea-stained laboratory and employing his world-renowned time-travel helmet we have somehow contrived to stitch it back to something like its original state – just in time for the bank holiday weekend! Splendid!
There are some towns in Suffolk where I would likely be burned as a witch!
Congratulations on a sell-out show at The Yellow Book. As one of the only steampunk stars in town you must be a regular? Do you know what? I’ve never been here before! Isn’t that terrible? Yes, very good night though. What a place and a lovely crowd! I will be back.
Would you say that you are the foremost Chap-hop artist in the entire world? Absolutely! Actually there’s probably just the two of us (Professor Elemental and apparent arch-nemesis Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer), but I am most definitely the greatest! However, I am slightly drunk. So would probably declare myself the best violinist in the world, despite having never picked one up. Take from that what you will.
Would you say that you are the foremost Chap-hop artist in the entire world? Absolutely!
Are relations still rocky between the two titans of Chap-hop then? God no, Mr B and I squashed that particular beef many moons ago. We met up shortly afterwards and became fast friends. Sometimes a dis record can lead to the most unlikely of alliances! We have actually collaborated a few times since I wrote ‘Fighting Trousers’* and have been discussing working together on something later in the year.
(*Professor Elemental’s most popular work, a scorching attack on his rival replete with lyrics such as ‘…when this George Formby clone is performing / audiences leave before he begins talking / a new career might be rewarding / I’m at bright Brighton pier you are rap’s Piers Morgan…’).
Is the temptation there to write another ‘Fighting Trousers’ though? Oh absolutely! I have thought about writing another several times, but who to go for, that is the question?
Actually a few repeat targets do pop up in your songs. Jim Davidson appears occasionally. Piers Morgan seems a particular favourite (if that is the right term)? I feel like any future attacks will be on people I am actually cross with. Brighton is such a lovely place to make music and there really aren’t many musicians that get my goat. Let’s see, I mean, Jeremy Hunt would be an obvious choice. I just need to find something that rhymes with that surname….
You seem to be a serial collaborator? You had both guest singers and guest rappers during your show. Oh yes I love to collaborate. Because I can only do what I do (shout loudly) the chance to work with different bands keeps the whole thing really exciting and makes me up my game. I have done death metal versions of Fighting Trousers, a Glam Rock reworking of This Is My Horse and some dirty jungle versions of tracks for festivals. I can’t get enough of collaborating with people I like.
I saw one guy in the audience tonight. He was wearing a Professor Elemental t-shirt. He sang along to every word of every song. At one point his shirt rode up and you could see what looked like the bottom of your face tattooed on his chest…. I think he said his name was Mr Michael Gove? Yes, well, that was a bit of weird one. A while back Michael Gove declared himself a fan and I realised that sometimes you just have to say no. It’s ok to tell some people that they have forfeited the right to be a fan, by being an awful person. I had an afternoon arguing with Sarah Vine (Gove’s wife) on Twitter. Eventually I told her to tell him to smash any CDs of mine.
What is it about Michael Gove that particularly ‘gets your goat’? He is a proper fan I understand?Well, probably not any more, if I have done my job! Before I started doing this (being Professor Elemental) for a living I worked as a teacher and I have seen the awful damage that Gove has done to the teaching profession. Even worse to see that Nicki Morgan has picked up that particular ball and run with it. Yuck!
So what was it you were doing exactly? I taught at a special school in Haywards Heath, which was as inspiring as it was hilarious and brilliant. I learned an incredible amount working in that world, particularly in terms of following your own path and having the confidence to throw yourself into whatever makes you the happiest.
…Brighton is in my heart and soul. I want my funeral on the crazy mouse rollercoaster on the pier and to be buried in the Ghost Train!
How is it that Brighton has such a thriving steampunk scene? What is it about Brighton? Why is Brighton a magnet for steampunks? It is accepting of weirdness I suppose. There are not many towns in Britain where you can do your own thing, however weird, and nobody bothers you. I can wander down the street in the full outfit and people don’t give you a second look. There are some towns in Suffolk where I would likely be burned as a witch!
Would Professor Elemental consider himself ‘a Brightonian’? Absolutely, I may have Ipswich in my blood, but Brighton in my heart and soul. I want my funeral on the crazy mouse rollercoaster on the pier and to be buried in the Ghost Train!
You have your own Professor Elemental brand of tea? Is it a genuine cup of brown joy? Why of course! Never settle for anything less than 100% purest joy.
A lady appears in a number of your videos, for instance as a masseuse in ‘Fighting Trousers’. Is this Mrs Elemental? Indeed it is, the beautiful Ms Helen Fry. When that video came out, I was delighted to get loads of fan mail and only slightly less so when I realised that it was all for her! She is going to return to the stage with me as my robot wife for this year’s Glastonbury festival shows.
For the ‘Fighting Trousers’ video you managed to perfectly simulate the Victorian physique. What special training or diet did you go through to achieve this astonishing look? It’s a diet that’s been in my family for generations, a heady brew made up of opium, swan puree and occasional soups. Alongside that is a strict exercise regime of at least one go on a rollercoaster daily. And voila! The perfect body. Depending on your definition of perfection.
As well as Professor Elemental’s own music you have done some voiceover work for television. You were in Phineas and Ferb? Yes I did Phineas and Ferb a year or two back and have done some lovely stuff for various computer games. Voiceover work is a lot of fun. There will be some more work for Disney over the summer and, even more exciting, a project with Trevor and Simon, who older people will remember from Going Live. Happy times.
What is next for Professor Elemental? Well, after spending last year on an enormous concept album about time travel and apes (ApeQuest, still available from the Professor Elemental website), I am going back to my roots with a Hip Hop album featuring myself and Dr Syntax over Tom Caruana’s beautiful beats.
After that, there is another issue of the Professor Elemental comic, a Geoffery The Ape (Professor Elemental’s infamous monkey butler) toy and shows in every corner of the globe. I’m a lucky chap!
You can visit Professor Elemental’s website at www.professorelemental.com
Or you can catch The Professor at the following venues in Brighton over the next month:
13th May: With The Sweet Chunks Band, The Prince Albert.
25th May: The Wundelich Review, Spiegeltent.
28th May: Funk Da Family Fesitval, Hove Park.
Photos 5 and feature Neil Rylatt, 6 Matthew Kitchen.